Family Cinema Films

Family films to see at the cinema this week

Fancy a trip to the cinema, but don’t know what would be fun with the kids? Here’s our up-to-date guide of family films, written by Mike Davies especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small scale films to great blockbusters for all the family!

Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.

New releases out now

Coco film

Coco 3D (PG)

Following 2014’s The Book of Life, it’s now Pixar’s turn to take animation audiences on a journey into the afterlife, as celebrated in Mexico’s Day of the Dead, a lively, colourful festival to remember friends and family members who have passed on. As with all the best Pixar films, there’s a definite darkness as it delivers the familiar messages about family, friendship, passion and being true to yourself. Boldly, the title character, while pivotal to the story, isn’t actually the focus of the narrative. She’s an old Mexican woman drifting in and out of dementia and hovering around death’s door. As a child, her heart was broken when her father left to pursue his dream of being a musician, to which end her mother banned music from the home and family and went into the shoe-making business. Two generations later, the ban still stands, much to the frustration of 12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who, having secretly taught himself to play guitar, wants to emulate his hero, the late legendary film and singing star Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

When his gran smashes his guitar,  Miguel ‘borrows’ the one that belonged to de la Cruz from his shrine and suddenly finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead where his dead relatives offer to give him the blessing he needs to return home before he becomes a skeleton like them, but on the condition he renounces music. Miguel, however, decides to track down his idol who, to his delight, he’s discovered was his great-great grandfather and, to do so, he needs the help of Hector (Gael García Bernal), a skeleton who wants to get back to the Land of the Living and see his daughter one last time before, with no one putting up his photo on the Day of the Dead, he’s forgotten and lost forever.

With the addition of terrific songs (especially Remember Me) from the team behind Frozen, an unexpected revelation, betrayal and a scraggly, loopy stray dog, this is a vibrant, visually spellbinding and ultimately hugely touching bittersweet family film that will also help make the idea of death seem less scary for youngsters. And, unlike Ferdinand, the characters here all speak with native accents.  Also in 2D. 105 mins.

LGWTC guidance: Dead Good!

film still of The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman (12A)

Hugh Jackman stars as P.T. Barnum, a 19th century hoaxer and showman who pretty much invented modern entertainment when he founded Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show On Earth with himself as the ringmaster. A rumbustious musical, this isn’t entirely historically accurate (Barnum was 60 before he started his circus and was nowhere near as good-looking as Jackman), but it is riotous, colourful fun as it follows Barnum as he first opens a museum of wax figures and stuffed animals, then recruits a collection of freaks and misfits, including a bearded lady (Keala Settle), Siamese twins and a hairy Dog Boy, which, despite a bad review, attracts the crowds – but also protests from the bigots. Looking to capture a highbrow audience, he signs up famous Swedish opera star Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) for an American tour, but things don’t go as well as planned, almost ending his marriage, while back in New York a fire at the circus seems to have ruined him financially too.

Co-starring Michelle Williams as his childhood sweetheart wife Charity and Zac Efron (in his first singing role since High School Musical) as a wealthy and well-connected theatrical producer looking for some excitement who becomes his partner and gets them presented to Queen Victoria, this is a celebration of diversity and family, underdog dreams and the uplifting power of pure entertainment. Packed with songs from the duo behind La La Land with Settle’s This Is Me and the rousing cast finale From Now On just two of the highlights. Glorious. 105 mins

LGWTC guidance: A fabulous family-friendly Broadway musical styled celebration of  showmanship and spectacle

Star Wars The Last Jedi Film

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (12A)

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this is something of a disappointment after The Force Awakens and the magnificent Rogue One, the early stretches feeling like a throwback to the George Lucas days with some lame dialogue and jokiness. Picking up from the last instalment, the remains of the Resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher) are fleeing the First Order, commanded by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), while Rey (Daisy Ridley), has tracked down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on his remote island to persuade him to come to their aid and train her in Jedi ways. He’s having none of either.

It’s very much a film of two parts, one strand following Leia, hot-headed pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac), former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and new addition, low level rebel Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) while the other focuses on Luke, Rey and her psychic connection with the brooding Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who, having killed his father, Han Solo, last time round, is being groomed by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) as the next Vader. Rey hopes to turn him away from the dark side, but there’s a whole lot of plot backstory on events between him and Skywalker involved here.

Things are further divided into several subplots and Johnson doesn’t always juggle them successfully while the pursuit/escape and the push-pull strands often feel like running to stand still. Thankfully, after a somewhat hesitant start, once things get into their stride it builds to a genuinely powerful climax and spectacular finale of almost operatic grandeur, the scenes between Ren and Rey electrifyingly intense. As ever, it works its themes of heroism, courage, sacrifice, resilience and self-discovery to good effect, keeping an emotional grip even when the story becomes sluggish while naturally punctuated by an explosive action sequences and the obligatory lightsaber duels.

Ridley again brings vitality to her character, but its Driver, Hamill and Isaac who provide the strongest performance while fans will be thrilled to see cameos by two iconic figures from the original series while the film delivers some unexpected major twists, paving the way for Episode IX with its new Vader/new Luke face-off. It’s undeniably entertaining, but it’s still ultimately two and a half- hour bridge between more interesting chapters. 152 mins. Also in 2D and 3D IMAX.

LGWTC guidance: The Empire Strikes Back …Again

jumanjii film still

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (12A)

Set shortly after the end of the 1995 film that saw Robin Williams escape from a magical board game and having to save the city from the creatures that followed him, this updates the concept for the video game generation, except this time the adventures are played out inside the game itself.

Finding the game washed up on the beach in 1996 when it mysteriously transforms into a video cartridge, teenager Alex (Nick Jonas) is sucked in never to be seen again. Some twenty years later four high schoolers, nerdy Spencer (Alex Wolff), football star Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), self-absorbed princess Bethany (Madison Iseman) and introverted Martha (Morgan Turner), find themselves in detention. Ordered to tidy up a junk cupboard, they chance upon and decide to play an old video console and are also sucked into the game, find themselves transformed into their chosen but personality mismatched avatars. The hulking Fridge becomes short panicky zoologist Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart), Spencer is muscular archaeologist Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), while Madison becomes Lara Croft type Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan) and, to her horror, Bethany is overweight middle-aged male cryptographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black). Their mission is to save Jumanji from the curse brought about by Van Pelt (Bobby Canavale) when he stole an emerald jewel from a giant Jaguar statue and became one with the jungle creatures.

Realising they have no option but to play the game and they each have three lives before it’s ‘game over’ – for real, the film unfolds in typical video game style with the characters having to move from one level to the next by completing various tasks and try to remain out of the clutches of Van Pelt and his henchmen, hooking up with another stranded player along the way. Played tongue in cheek, the cast send-themselves up, Johnson regularly breaking into ‘smouldering intensity’ poses and admiring his physique. Gillen makes for a feisty action heroine with her dancefight skills, while Black proves the film’s star with some hilarious riffs on being a teenage girl trapped in a man’s body, especially one about going to the toilet. Naturally, it all comes with a self-discovery message as the teens all learn something about themselves and each other and emerge as better, more confident people at the end of the journey. Borrowing from Indiana Jones, Romancing The Stone and Freaky Friday, it’s hugely entertaining family fun. 3D and 2D. 119 mins.

LGWTC guidance: Get that jungle fever.

Paddington 2 Film

Paddington 2 (PG)

This delightful sequel reunites the original cast and finds Paddington (perfectly voiced by Ben Wishaw) jailed for theft when he’s found guilty of stealing a valuable 19th century book, a pop-up guide to London’s landmarks, from Mr Gruber’s (Jim Broadbent) antique shop. He’s innocent, of course, and the book, which he wanted to buy for Aunt Lucy’s (Imelda Staunton) birthday, has actually been stolen by the Brown’s Windsor Crescent neighbour, Phoenix Buchanan (a scene-stealing Hugh Grant). A vain, faded stage star now reduced to fronting dog food commercials, who believes it contains clues to the location of a vast treasure hidden by the book’s originator, a Victorian steam fair owner and trapeze artiste.

All of which makes for a hugely enjoyable romp as the Browns, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), Mary (Sally Hawkins), their children, Jonathan (Samuel Joslin) and Judy (Madeleine Harris) and their Scottish housekeeper, Mrs Bird (Julie Walters) set about trying to track down the real thief. All the while, in prison, Paddington strikes up a friendship with feared hardman chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson) by introducing him to the delights of marmalade. All of which culminates in a high speed chase involving two steam trains that’s straight out of the silent movies.

The animation is outstanding, while the film’s bright primary colours reflect the happiness it seeks to spread. Along with some inspired slapstick, there’s also a stream of very funny jokes, they and the sweet charm effortlessly appealing to children and adults alike, it’s message about kindness and looking for the goodness in people is of particular resonance in today’s world. There’s a clutch of cameos too, including Joanna Lumley as Buchanan’s agent and Tom Conti as the customer on the receiving end of a barber shop disaster, who subsequently turns out to be the trial judge. All this plus a post-credit tap dancing musical number featuring the pink striped prison uniforms that resulted from a Paddington mishap in the laundry. Utter joy. 103 mins.

LGWTC guidance: Bear it and grin.

ferdinand bull and girl film

Ferdinand (U)

Adapted from the children’s book about a flower-loving bull, Rio director Carlos Saldanha, serves up amusing moments and not inconsiderable charm with this animated tale about Ferdinand (voiced by John Cena), who, born on a Spanish ranch dedicated to rearing bulls for the bullring, would rather smell flowers than butt heads with his fellow calves, among them the bullying, ultra-competitive Valiente (Bobby Cannavale). On learning the true fate awaiting in the bullring, Ferdinand escapes to the countryside and is adopted by flower farmer Juan and his daughter Nina (Lily Day) and raised as the family pet.

However, now grown to massive size, a mishap at the local flower festival, where he literally becomes a bull in a china shop, sees him declared a dangerous monster winding up back at the ranch where the famous bullfighter El Primero has come to select his opponent for his farewell bullfight. Those that don’t cut the mustard are duly shipped off to the factory up the hill to become meat.

Refusing to fight, Ferdinand, with the help of his calming goat trainer Lupe (Kate McKinnon) and three scrappy hedgehogs, resolves to escape again. This time taking the other bulls, including Highland bull Angus (David Tennnant) and Valiente who’s destined for the butcher’s knife, with him. To do so, however, requires crossing the field occupied by a trio of preening Lipizzaner horses. Although the animals get away, following a frantic chase through Madrid, Ferdinand himself winds up in the bullring facing off against Primero.

It’s a fairly slight story, beefed up here with a dance battle between the bulls and the horses, and the grim spectre of the meat factory may prove a touch upsetting for younger audiences. On the other hand, it’s visually very attractive and comes with familiar messages about being true to yourself and not being bullied, the voices and characters having sufficient quirk and cute to keep kids and adults cheerfully entertained. 3D and 2D. 106 mins.

LGWTC guidance: Ole

Coming soon

early man film

From Friday 26th January

Early Man (PG)

The latest claymation from Aardman is a  pre-history comedy set at the point when the Stone Age was about to give way to the Bronze Age. Much to the dismay of caveman Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and the rest of his tribe, especially when Bronze Age bully Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) plans to take over their land and turn it into a giant mine, where they’ll be forced to dig. To save his tribe, Dug must defeat  Nooth’s forces, confronting them in a gladiatorial arena in a game of prehistoric soccer, joined by Goona (Maisie Williams), who switches sides because her civilisation won’t met women play football. What with Nooth’s dictation-taking bird (Rob Brydon) and Hognob, Dug’s pet orange boar, expect lots of typical Aardman silliness, puns and in-jokes. 89 mins.